Review of The Boy Next Door, by Meg Cabot

The Boy Next Door

by Meg Cabot

Avon Books (HarperCollins), 2002. 379 pages.

I’m a little embarrassed that when I was shelving books in the Romance section, I actually picked one up, checked it out, read it in one sitting, and thoroughly enjoyed it. To be fair, at least it doesn’t have a picture of anyone’s bare chest on the cover. I was in the mood for something light and fluffy and fun after reading some heavier books, and light and fluffy and fun was exactly what I got.

The story is told through e-mails, and that’s actually carried off well. Fortunately, they don’t use the annoying text message shorthand and it comes out as a fun and believable way people would talk about the madcap adventures of a slightly ditzy but good-hearted co-worker like Mel.

We first meet Mel Fuller in a series of e-mails from her co-workers wondering why she is so late to work. Especially amusing is the one from Human Resources urging counseling if she has serious personal problems causing her excessive tardiness.

It turns out that Mel was late because she found her elderly neighbor had been attacked in her apartment. So she didn’t think to call her employer. In fact, she took care of feeding her neighbor’s cats and walking her Great Dane before she came to work. Isn’t that what anyone would do?

So begins some time where caring and thoughtful Mel takes care of the enormous dog Paco while Mrs. Friedlander is in a coma. Her work does not appreciate her continued tardiness. When Mel finally manages to track down Mrs. Friedlander’s nephew, a notorious womanizer, photographer Max Friedlander, and sends him an e-mail, he’s off at an island with a celebrity model, and doesn’t want to be bothered by a little thing like his aunt’s attack. But neither does he want his aunt to cut him out of her will.

So Max e-mails an old college friend, John Trent, calls in an old favor, and asks John to go to his aunt’s apartment, pretending to be Max Friedlander. John can take care of the dog until Mrs. Friedlander gets out of the coma, and Max’s aunt will never know that her nephew couldn’t be bothered to come to her bedside.

It all might have gone well, if Mel hadn’t found “Max Friedlander” so different from what his reputation suggested. And if John hadn’t had a thing for redheads, combined with never before having known a girl who wasn’t more interested in his money than in him. But you know there’s going to be trouble with a relationship that began with lies.

Reading the flirting, the gossipy e-mails, and the funny misunderstandings is a lot of fun if you’re in the mood for fluff, and this book hit me right when that’s exactly the mood I was in. There are a couple of sex scenes, but they are also kept pretty light, and at least it doesn’t have a steamy cover! There’s even a mystery along the way: Who attacked old Mrs. Friedlander? Is their apartment building safe?

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

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